Ellen Forney does a masterful job of creating a visual of the manic highs and the depressive lows of bipolar disorder, in this frank, funny, often har...moreEllen Forney does a masterful job of creating a visual of the manic highs and the depressive lows of bipolar disorder, in this frank, funny, often harrowing, and yet affirming memoir of her struggle with bipolar disorder. She uses her chosen medium to great advantage here, and what comes out of this is a terrific study of an artist struggling to make sense of her mood disorders, while trying to maintain her creative side. It's her fear that should she find "balance," she would lose that creative side of her. Thankfully, Ellen Forney doesn't, and we're the better for it.
Pete Townshend has led a seemingly contradictory life. Eloquent and empathetic one moment, crass and insensitive the next. A spiritual soul that nearl...morePete Townshend has led a seemingly contradictory life. Eloquent and empathetic one moment, crass and insensitive the next. A spiritual soul that nearly succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh. A doting family man whose extramarital affairs inevitably destroyed his marriage.
A brilliant guitar. A gifted songwriter. A lousy bandmate. A pretentious asshole. All of the above.
I wondered for a while what it would take for Pete to finally publish his memoirs. As rock stars go, Pete Townshend has staked his claim as the thinking man's rock star, and rock's thinking man, a deeply sensitive, highly creative soul who's never been shy to bear his self and his soul to his public. Who I Am is exactly what one would expect, and expect nothing less from Townshend: a warts-and-all autobiography, a mix of maudlin and praise. Modest? Hardly. Brutally honest? Very much so.
Townshend doesn't lavish much type on the Who as a band; there are countless tomes on the 'Orrible 'Oo, the best of which are Dave Marsh's Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who, and Richard Barnes' illustrated/oral history of the band, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere. Those expecting more salacious stories and triumphant tales are advised to read elsewhere. Instead, and wisely so, Townshend gives up many a glimpse into his thinking, his emotions, his reactions to life inside the Who and as a solo artist, all the while chasing the personal demons that have haunted him throughout his adult life. He doesn't shy away from the sexual and emotional abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his deranged grandmother and "father figures" that did not have Pete's interests at heart. One listen to Tommy, and it's clear the two Townshends are evident: the brash, articulate, spirituality-seeking man, and the frightened, anxious boy. Who I Am is the story of the two Pete Townshends, at time hilarious, other times cringe-inducing. But this is Pete Townshend we're talking here. The man's never been known for his filter, and that's what we love about him. Even at his most arrogant, or his most vulnerable, Pete Townshend has never been anything more than honest, even if it means being brutally so.
One word of warning: Who I Am is at times uncomfortably graphic, and he spares no detail in his harrowing story regarding his arrest, and acquittal, over child pornography charges. Even though Townshend was exonerated, he demonstrated great intent in exposing credit card companies too eager to approve charges made by pedophiles viewing child porn online, he also demonstrated shocking naivety in thinking he was simply doing the right thing. A massive misunderstanding - Scotland Yard was immediately convinced, upon his arrest, that Townshend was guilty of absolutely nothing - which led to his very public crucifixion. Townshend is still haunted by the incident, but his resolve is still absolute.
It's taken Pete a long time to write this memoir - something he once claimed he'd write in his early 20's - but the wait's been worth it. As eloquent and heartfelt as he's been lyrically and on stage, Who I Am is equally as eloquent, as to be expected from rock' Man of Letters.
Upon final read of Pete Townshend's well-stated memoir, you get the feeling that what Pete Townshend really needs is a hug.